The folks at the Journal of the Civil War Era gave me another opportunity earlier this week to write on their blog, Muster. In this essay I briefly discuss the political life of Missouri politician and general Frank Blair, Jr., and his statue in St. Louis’s Forest Park. It’s a statue I’ve seen numerous times and one that, frankly, has a textual inscription that ignores Blair’s blatant racism and support for colonization of African Americans. My thinking on public iconography of late has centered on the inadequacy of the medium in actually conveying accurate historical content to viewers. As I state in the essay, more and more I feel like the work of educating people about historical events and people must start in the classroom and museum, not the public square.
Stay tuned for more essays on this blog in the near future. I have made a point of trying to get more of my essays published to larger platforms beyond this blog over the past year, but I still have a lot on my mind about history and memory that will find a home here in the future 🙂
My passion for learning about Missouri’s complex role in the Civil War has been strong ever since I started studying the Civil War. At the beginning of this year I decided that the time had come to contribute to this historiography with a journal article of some sort, and I started hitting the books and the microfilm rolls really hard. In the course of my research I found an intriguing, untold story in Democratic Congressman John Richard Barret, a one-term legislator who happened to be sitting with the Thirty-Sixth Congress (1859-1861) as a representative from St. Louis when the first seven states seceded from the Union. Although Barret is tangentially mentioned by scholars like Louis Gerteis, Adam Arenson, and William Parrish in studies of Missouri’s response to the secession crisis, no historian has previously produced scholarship where he is the central character.
Although Barret has no existing diary entries or letters to study, I managed to find a treasure trove of fascinating speeches and op-eds through newspaper and legislative records. Last month I completed a 9,000 word manuscript, and earlier this week that draft was approved for publication as a journal article. I am now pleased to pass along the news that my article, “Searching for Compromise: Missouri Congressman John Richard Barret’s Fight to Save the Union,” will be published in The Confluence later this fall.
The Confluence is a scholarly magazine based out of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. I went to Lindenwood as an undergrad and was enrolled as a student when the publication began in 2009. Since then it has developed a solid readership throughout Missouri and beyond. I believe this article could have been published with a number of reputable Civil War history journals in other parts of the country, but the chance to publish with a magazine rooted in the history of the St. Louis region was very appealing. The Confluence is also dedicated to presenting deeply researched history to a lay audience through accessibly-written articles and a slick graphic design that is visually appealing. Those were also big factors for me in choosing to publish with them.
I won’t give away much here, but a centerpiece of my article is a speech that Barret made to Congress on February 21, 1861, a few short weeks before Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential Inauguration. In that speech he makes a logical, determined argument in favor of compromise over the issue of slavery’s westward expansion. He criticizes extremists from both North and South and, in my opinion, clearly explains how and why most Missourians:
1. preferred a cautious approach to secession
2. supported the Union even after the first seven Southern states seceded
3. understood that leaving the Union would also mean giving up protections for slavery, and
4. believed a protracted civil war would ultimately lead to some of the bloodiest consequences being played out in border slave states like Missouri.
For those interested in obtaining a copy of this article, I will have more info in the fall. Stay tuned!
I am currently doing research for a journal article on Missouri politics before the Civil War (more info on that is forthcoming) and came across this remarkable Letter to the Editor in the Daily Missouri Republican, which was actually the most popular Democratic newspaper in St. Louis. It would be really useful as a primary source in a classroom setting. The letter, written by “Slaveholder” and published on August 4, 1860, is a remarkable document for three different reasons:
- It demonstrates that the leading issue on the minds of Missourians leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War was the status of slavery, particularly its westward expansion into new federal territories. Just about every day in the newspapers slavery was the main topic of concern in the 1850s and early 1860s.
- It captures the concerns of proslavery border state residents who feared the election of Southern Democrat John C. Breckenridge as much as Republican Abraham Lincoln.
- In many respects it correctly predicts the consequences of the Civil War for Missouri. The state would experience the third most number of battles during the war (behind Virginia and Tennessee) and slavery would be abolished by the state legislature in January 1865, less than five years after this letter was written.
Here is an excerpt of the letter:
Next month I’ll be taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Missouri State University on the Civil War in Missouri. History professor Jeremy Neely will be teaching the course, which you can sign up for here. I am really excited to learn something new about a topic that I’m very passionate about.
There is no syllabus or required reading for the class, but in preparation for it I wanted to put together my own list of resources that I’ve relied to inform my own understanding of the Civil War experience in Missouri. Please add your favorite reads and recommendations in the comments section.
Adam Arenson, The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War (Harvard University Press, 2011)
Albert Castel, General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West (Louisiana State University Press, 1968)
Bryce A. Suderow and R. Scott House, The Battle of Pilot Knob: Thunder in Arcadia Valley (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2014)
Daniel O’Flaherty, General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel (University of North Carolina Press, 1954)
Dennis K. Boman, Lincoln and Citizens’ Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security (Louisiana State University Press, 2011)
Diane Mutti Burke and Jonathan Earle, eds., Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border (University Press of Kansas, 2013)
Diane Mutti Burke, On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 (University of Georgia Press, 2010)
Jay Monaghan, Civil War on the Western Border, 1854-1865 (Little, Brown & Co., 1955)
James Neal Primm, Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Missouri, 1764-1980 (Missouri Historical Society Press, 1981)
Jeffrey L. Patrick, Campaign for Wilson’s Creek: The Fight for Missouri Begins (McWhitney Foundation Press, 2011)
Louis S. Gerteis, Civil War St. Louis (University of Kansas Press, 2001)
Louis S. Gerteis, The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History (University of Missouri Press, 2012)
Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1989)
Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (University of Kansas Press, 2004)
Silvana R. Siddali, Missouri’s War: The Civil War in Documents (Ohio University Press, 2009)
William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher III, Wilson’s Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It (University of North Carolina Press, 2000)
William E. Parrish, Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative (University of Missouri Press, 1998)